Doug Glanville: Reflections…What’s with his BA?

Traded for Mickey Morindini in 1997, Doug Glanville was entering a Philadelphia world that was beginning to look forward, realizing that there was no way we could somehow go back in time resurrect the mullets. Yes, in 1997, 1993 was over. Of course, in the end, this “forwardness” would not include Glanville as over the course of the late nineties the team rotated through the “Francoma” brigade. But Glanville was someone to celebrate; an Ivy League kid who studied engineering at U-Penn and wrote a “transportation-feasibility study for a proposed stadium on the site of the Philadelphia Post Office at 30th Street.” Add this to a 1999 season with some of the best lead-off stats that year: AB 628, R 101, H 204, DB 38, RBI 73 and an AVG. of .325 and a defensive center-field that few could match.

Now, the point of this article is not to celebrate Doug Glanville. In fact, 1999 turned out to be his only great year, as the others ranged from decent to downright depressing. No, instead, I want to talk about some aspects of leadoff hittery and also point out that Glanville was my favorite player because he was smart, fast, and signed my hat.

It was on September 24th of Glanville’s career year, 1999, that my family marks as the day of Doug Glanville’s peak, the day an unfortunate run-in with my sister began his decline. After the game, we waited to catch the players as they came up the ramp from the locker room. Scott Rolen passed by without acknowledging any of his fans. Paul Byrd signed autographs with one hand and held a stroller with another, chatting with people about their kids’ little leagues. Chad Ogea awkwardly asked me if I wanted his autograph—“Would you like my autograph?” “Sure… (receiving hat back)… Chad… Ogea…”

My sister and I were perched above Doug when he left the locker room. I asked for his autograph and he smiled and said, “Sure thing. Throw down the hat.” So I did, and my sister, assuming that Doug was talking to her, did the same. One Thanksgiving, my brother made a chart of Doug’s decline in stats, tracing it back to September 24th 1999, the day my sister hit Doug Glanville in the eye with the brim of a hat. The chart looked something like this:

Glanville’s Stats

Now, though we denied any other reason for Doug Glanville’s statistical decline (a few years later he would bounce around on the benches for several teams), obviously my sister had very little to do with Doug Glanville’s misfortune. It seemed that pitchers figured him out. He always slapped the ball, pulling it over the shortstop and third baseman, and once the National League found his Achilles’ heel, all Doug got were outside pitches. His inability to go with the pitch, ended his career.

Even in his career year, Glanville had a .346 batting AVG. vs. RHP and a .250 vs. LHP (and he only batted right-handed). For a leadoff hitter, that’s bordering on unjustifiable. Conceivably, a leadoff hitter should do everything he can to get on base. The fact that one type of pitcher would so drastically foil Glanville (think 1/3 chance whittled down to 1/4), could have ruined him on its own. Luckily, he had a .346 average vs. righties, and it is a given that you will always see more “north-paws” (can I be credited for inventing baseball lingo?)

Though the next year was the same (.285 RHP vs. .237 LHP) 2001 and 2002 saw his average reverse: 2001: .254 RHP/ .290 LHP, 2002: .248 RHP/.250 LHP. Unfortunately, once he adapted to left-handers, his overall numbers had dipped too low to guarantee him Philadelphia stardom (of course, at that point, it was reserved for Scott Rolen, Pat Burrell and Bobby Abreu).

Pretend you’re a Moneyballer. An infinite .OBP, i.e. a perpetual motion machine type hitter would be the most dangerous out there. If you infinitely get on base, you infinitely score, and as an after-thought, the game is infinitely long. For a leadoff hitter, Moneyball common-sense would definitely recommend your .OBP is .(infinite sign). Glanville’s was, by year:

1999 – .376
2000 – .307
2001 – .285
2002 (last full year) – .292
Career: .315

Let’s compare with our favorite leadoff hitters of the 21st century (career .OBP):

Jimmy Rollins: .329
Alfonso Soriano: .325
Ichiro Suzuki: .379
Johnny Damon: .353
David Eckstein: .351

Glanville is not too far away from some of these names, granted that an .OBP below .300 is pretty much equivalent to conditions in which gas molecules would begin harder into solids.

However, look at each of these hitters’ LHP/RHP stats:

Player Bats(L/R/S) AVG./.OBP vs.RHP AVG./.OBP vs. LHP
Jimmy Rollins S .272 / .327* .280 / .335*
Alfonso Soriano R .279 / .318 .281 / .352
Ichiro Suzuki L .327 / .367 .357 / .398
Johnny Damon L .290 / .356 .286 / .347
David Eckstein R .284 / .348 .280 / .355

* Stats do not include 3 ABs as RH vs. RHP

For the exceptions of Suzuki’s stats, and Soriano’s .OBP, most of these players exhibit a similar trait. For the most part, their RHP/LHP batting AVG. are nearly the same, amazingly only with a difference, at most, .08. I took these hitters at random and what the numbers suggest is that a constant batting average is a must for a good leadoff hitter, something that Glanville’s surely lacked.

Theoretically, these stats prove the obvious; a good leadoff hitter needs to have a good, if not great .OBP. Your job is to get on base so that the bigger bats behind you can ring in the RBIs. Where Glanville, and Rollins somewhat, floundered is with discipline at the plate. What his numbers suggest is that, though he was productively on top in 1999, his inability to draw walks inevitably led to his decline. If he was more patient with LHP in 1999, he could have had a monumental average and a decent .OBP. The difference of RHP v. LHP of .96 points was a hidden clue to his inevitably decline.

He would bench-hop for a few years before finally leaving baseball. Even though Doug Glanville would never again achieve his 1999 stats, he nevertheless graciously signed my sister’s Scott Rolen banner and wished us a goodnight.

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4 Responses

  1. Are you trying to give me an aneurism? Since when is Eckstein one of ‘our’ ‘favorite’ leadoff hitters. BALLS! Eckstein is a child who is worse than most of MLBs regular SS.
    Where is my twin brother Jose Reyes?
    Also, I would like to note that Jeter is a better leadoff hitter than Damon and A-Rod is practically a billion times better than Jeter at SS. The Yankees shoot themselves in the foot every year.

  2. I have to love anyone with “stein” in their name…
    Reyes just recently became a leadoff threat (last two years) and I didn’t include Jeter because he has bounced from 1 to 2. Everyone I selected has been the leadoff hitter for their team for most of the 2000s. Also, baseball reference wants you to pay to see a ranked list of leadoff players. I had to go on my own.

  3. joe, good piece, good analysis. but i’m confused. i thought your theory was that glanville began his decline as a result of getting hit in the face by your sister’s cap. has your theory changed? was glanville’s decline coincidental?

  4. Eckstein is overrated. So many baseball analysts and other people come out crying that he is underrated that, guess what, that diminutive child is now overrated.

    Leadoff hitters I would rather have than Eckstein: Marcus Giles, Ryan Freel, Felipe Lopez, Hanley Ramirez, Craig Biggio, Rafael Furcal, Kenny Lofton, Rickie Weeks, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Dave Roberts, Alfonso Soriano, Brian Roberts, Kevin Youkilis, Grady Sizemore, Placido Polanco, David DeJesus, Luis Castillo, Johnny Damon, Derek Jeter, Ichiro Suzuki, Carl Crawford, Julio Lugo.
    Borderline: Jamey Carroll, Brady Clark, Randy Winn, Chone Figgins, Melky Cabrera, Jason Kendall, Gary Matthews, Reed Johnson.

    SS I would rather have than Eckstein: Edgar Renteria, Felipe Lopez, Rich Aurilia, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins, Omar Vizquel, Miguel Tejada, Johnny Peralta, Carlos Guillen, Orlando Cabrera, Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Michael Young
    Borderline: Felipe Lopez, Hanley Ramirez, Adam Everett, Rafael Furcal, Jason Bartlett, Bobby Crosby, Stephen Drew, Troy Tulowitzki, Khalil Greene.

    Eckstein is actually a pretty good fielding shortstop, but there has been mention of his lack of range.
    Eckstein, isn’t anything spectacular offensively. He managed to have a SLG lower than his OBP. A good leadoff hitter will be able to get himself past first without aid of others. Eckstein is pretty good at hitting singles, not much else.

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